The Johannes Brahms Society was established in 1969. Two years after its formation and with the generous support of the Hamburg businessman Alfred Toepfer, the Society managed to set up a Johannes Brahms memorial in the Peterstrasse. It became the nucleus of today’s Brahms-Museum, run by the Society on the same site.
The museum, which also houses the Society’s main office, has a permanent exhibition tracing the course of the composer’s life with the help of numerous exhibits. (The collection of autographs is for conservational reasons on permanent loan to the Brahms archives of the State and University Library Carl-von-Ossietzky in Hamburg.) The emphasis is on the Hamburg period (1833-1862). The museum owns a square piano (tafelklavier) made in 1859 which Brahms used for his lessons from 1861-1862. Thanks to its restoration, financed by the Hamburg bank Haspa, it can be played by appropriately adept visitors. A reference library, which includes the volumes of the new edition of the complete works of Brahms as well as his entire works on CD, is a warm invitation to come to study, read, and listen to his music.
Through different showcase exhibitions in the museum, as well as with concerts and lectures (see under Nachrichten) the Society devotes itself to cherishing Brahms’ memory in the widest sense. Its programme includes supporting national and international Brahms research and this is the purpose behind publishing the series „Brahms-Studies“, whose first volume - supervised by Prof. Constantin Floros - appeared in 1974. There are now 16 volumes available, which have been published from volume 11 onwards by the Publisher “Verlag Hans Schneider” in Tutzing. The musicological contributions, analyses and essays on the composer’s life and work, and on the people he knew, provide a service both for the Brahms researcher just as much as the interested layman.
Between 1983 and 2002 the Johannes Brahms Society has organised the international Brahms competition nine times in order to promote young musicians. All genres in Brahms’ compositions have been included.
At the same time as the Brahms-Museum was opened, the Brahms Memorial Stone was erected at the instigation of the Society in the Caffamacherreihe directly opposite the composer’s birthplace. The actual house was destroyed in the war in 1943. The renaming of the square in front of Hamburg’s main concert hall in Johannes-Brahms-Platz is the direct result of an initiative started by the Society, as well as the upkeep of the Brahms family graves in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The Brahms Medal donated by the City of Hamburg was awarded four times at the suggestion of the Johannes Brahms Society. In 1983 it was awarded to the pianist Detlef Kraus, President of the Society from 1982 to 1997 and then Hon. President until his death in 2008, to Prof. Hermann Rauhe, a founding member and long standing President of the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik und Theater, to Prof. Kurt Hofmann, founding member and honorary member of the Society, and most recently in 2010 to the North German Radio Choir. Other personalities who received the Brahms Medal were Prof. Kurt Stephenson, Adolf Detel, Gerhard Maasz and Dr. Helmut Wirth (members of the Society).
The Musikfest Hamburg (Hamburg Music Festival) took place four times, also at the suggestion of the Brahms Society, the motivation being again the cherishing of Brahms’ works, but in this case in direct comparison with other composers. It can be considered as the forerunner and to a certain extent as a blueprint for the „Hamburg Sounds of Easter” which have been taking place from 2006 to 2012.
Brahms admirers and visitors to Hamburg wishing to tread in the biographical footsteps of the composer seek to find evidence of him in his native City away from the concert hall: With the further extension of the Brahms Museum and with its publications, the Johannes Brahms Society sees itself as the first port of call in Hamburg where such expectations can be met.
Presidents and Honorary Members
Kurt Stephenson (1899 – 1985)
President 1969 – 1973
Helmut Wirth (1912 – 1989)
President 1973 – 1982
President 1982 – 1997
Honorary President 1997 – 2008
Eckart Besch (*1931)
President 1997 – 2002
Cord Garben (*1943)
(in chronological order of appointment)
If you want to apply for membership to the Johannes Brahms Society kindly fill out the Application for Membership and return the signed application form to:
or send it by fax: +49 40 3501 6861
You might want to review the charter of the Johannes Brahms Society (Johannes-Brahms-Gesellschaft Hamburg - Internationale Vereinigung e.V.).